These Balsamic Braised Short Ribs feature perfectly charred and fork tender beef short ribs in a rich, velvety balsamic red wine sauce and served over creamy, cheesy polenta. This show stopping sophisticated meal is actually surprisingly easy to make and perfect for date night!Jump to Recipe
The Perfect Date Night Meal
When looking for a date night meal, I want something a little fancy but not too time-consuming or labor intensive. The perfect dinner plan is a little work up front (hello team work with your partner) then allowing the meal to slowly cook and do it’s thing while you enjoy wine (and each other’s company).
Well, I have the perfect recipe that fits this bill. My balsamic braised short ribs over creamy parmesan polenta. There’s a little prep work involved to prepare the shorts ribs and braising liquid, but then the dish simply goes in the oven for 2 hours to slowly cook and become tender.
My hubby and I like to work together to prep the short ribs. Then, drink wine/play a fun board game or watch a movie while it cooks. We can simply take the shorts ribs out of the oven after 2 hours and we have restaurant worthy dinner ready for us to enjoy!
Here’s the main ingredients in this dish:
- beef bone-in short ribs, make sure to find nice meaty ones with good marbling (I always ask my butcher to let me pick them out so I select the best ones!). Also, bone-in is a must when braising – it helps make the short ribs nice and tender and juicy.
- good quality balsamic vinegar, it should be thick and rich, with a dark hue. It worth spending a little more on a good balsamic vinegar. A better quality vinegar has a richer smoother taste and is not so acidic, so it leads to a more beautiful sauce. I also love using balsamic in this braise because it’s rich and tangy with a slight sweetness, which makes a velvety, luxurious sauce.
- a bold red wine, a little for the short ribs, the rest for you! A key is to cook with a wine you would want to drink, since it’s a key ingredient in our braising liquid. I prefer a big red blend or rich cab. The red wine and balsamic vinegar go perfectly together with their bold, smooth tastes. The wine adds bold, smooth fruity tones while the balsamic adds a sweet tanginess. Together, it’s magic.
- a touch of coconut sugar or brown sugar. It adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the acidity and tang from the red wine and balsamic. It also helps the sauce thicken as it cooks down.
- garlic, herbs, and onions, all add beautiful depth of flavor to the dish!
- low-sodium beef broth, brings the sauce all together to make it full and luxurious. I always opt for low-sodium so I can control the salt level myself.
How to make balsamic braised short ribs
Here’s a quick guide on how to make this dish:
- Pre-heat oven. Set it to 350. Not too hot and not too low so it cooks in only two hours but is still tender.
- Sear short ribs. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven (or oven safe pot), and sear the short ribs on all side. Browning the short ribs adds more flavor and help the short ribs achieve a nice, dark bark on the outside while cooking. Remove from the pan.
- Make the sauce. This braising liquid is gold! First, add a touch more olive oil and the onions to the pan, cooking for about 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Next, add the garlic and tomato paste, both add depth of flavor and brightness to the dish. Next, add the balsamic vinegar, red wine, and coconut sugar and cook down until slightly thickened. Finally, add in the beef broth, a touch of Worcestershire sauce (for umami), and the herbs to finish this delectable sauce.
- Add short ribs back to the sauce. Nestle in those seared short ribs into our sauce. This beautiful, rich sauce helps tenderize and flavor the meat!
- Braise. Put the lid on the dutch oven and pop it in the oven. Let it do it’s thang for 2 to 21/2 hours or until the meat can simply fall off the bone. Note, flip the meat half way through, if desired, so both sides get an equal amount of sauciness.
- Add in some butter. Add a little butter at the end and let it melt. Stir it so it’s incorporated into the sauce. The butter makes the sauce rich and velvety.
- Make polenta. In the last 30 minutes of braising, make the polenta so it’s ready to go when the short ribs are done.
- Serve and enjoy! Add the creamy polenta to the bottom of the dish. Next, top with a short rib and that beautiful sauce. Yum!
Are these lightened up?!
Since it’s date night, this meal is more on the indulgent side. But there’s a few swaps I incorporated to make it a bit lighter but still delicious:
- wholesome, real ingredients: this meal is made from scratch with all real ingredients, and that’s a win in my book! This way you get to control the salt, sugar, and quality of ingredients.
coconut sugar: I used coconut sugar, an unrefined sugar, to add a touch of sweetness to the sauce. Unprocessed sugars are easier for our bodies to digest and breakdown.
- I used a gluten-free, wheat-free organic polenta. I also flavored the polenta with broth to lighten it (instead of pure milk). Finally, I used a fresh grated parmesan (so no processed cheese here) and skim milk for some super easy swaps.
- low-sodium beef broth: has about half the sodium of regular broth and allows you to control the salt levels. I like to use an organic fine sea salt or pink Himalania salt.
Other date night recipes
These Balsamic Braised Short Ribs are the ultimate cozy date night meal. It’s rich, comforting, a little fancy, and oh so delicious! It’s a labor of love you and your partner can work on together this Valentine’s Day!
If you make this Balsamic Braised Short Ribs please leave a comment below. I absolutely love to hear from you guys and your thoughts on my recipes. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram or pin it on pinterest, cuz sharing is caring!
Balsamic Braised Short Ribs
Balsamic Braised Short Ribs
- 4 meaty bone-in beef short ribs about 1.5 pounds
- olive oil for searing
- 1 large red onion cut into big chunks
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
- 3-4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup bold red wine like a cab or red blend
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth
- A few dashes Worcestershire sauce optional
- 1 bundle fresh thyme 4-5 sprigs tied together with kitchen twine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter room temp.
Creamy Parmesan Polenta
- 1 18 oz tub polenta cut into ½ in cubes
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth plus more if necessary
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Salt and peppers to taste
Balsamic Braised Short Ribs
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously season the short ribs with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
In a large Dutch oven, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil and sear the short ribs on all sides. Remove from the pot.
Add a touch more olive oil and the red onion chunks. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add in garlic and tomato paste, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 more minutes.
Add in the balsamic vinegar, red wine, and coconut sugar and cook down for 2-3 minutes, until slightly thickened
Finish the braising liquid with beef broth and a touch of Worcestershire sauce.
Add the short ribs back to the pot, so they are nestled in the sauce. Tuck in the fresh thyme and bay leaves to the sauce.
Cook covered for 2 to 2 ½ hours, or until fork tender and the sauce reduced and slightly thickened, turning the short ribs in the sauce about half way through (if desired).
Remove from oven. Remove thyme and bay leaves. Stir in butter until fully melted and incorporated into the sauce.
Creamy Parmesan Polenta
For the polenta. Stir polenta, broth, and milk together in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and whisk until the polenta is heated through completely and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add more liquid if needed (should be the consistency of grits or oatmeal).
Remove pan from heat. Stir in parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and salt and pepper.
Serve short ribs with the creamy polenta. Enjoy!